December 1 - 7, 2019

The Inside and Outside Immersive Painting Experience 

Installation Views


Virtual Exhibition

The Inside and Outside Immersive Painting Experience 



For me, VR is like scuba diving, a complete immersion in another world. Unlike snorkeling, where one views the world below, the VR world is all around you and with the right software, I can weightlessly play with and put brush strokes of colored light in space all around myself, unrestricted by the limitations and constraints of a 2-dimensional picture plane. I have been looking for this 3D capability since the early 1980’s and I have tried many technologies that have purported to provide this option. Still, creating the 3DVR ‘paintings’ is only one step in my current working process. My goal is a finished, stretched and framed picture to hang on a wall, not the 3D immersive environment itself. Though I use digital technology, I still think of myself as a painter, one who is painting with colored light in a 3D virtual world. I still want to get my images out of the computer into the real world. I do this by cropping potential pictures out of the 3DVR light painting, which floats in the VR space all around me like a colorful weightless light sculpture. 

Back to my roots; I learned about cropping pictures in Larry Poons’ studio with Clement Greenberg in the early 1970’s. One advantage of cropping something created in 3DVR is that the lighting model which makes things visible in the virtual world, enables the cropped image to retain the visual 3D effect on the 2D canvas. Much the same way that traditional shaded figures on a canvas look three dimensional, the 3DVR shading creates the visual illusion of 3D brush strokes in space on the 2D picture plane. 

When a viewer looks at my paintings, some brush strokes have visual texture and some areas seem to have depth. The Syracuse Pictures, created from 2016 to 2019, are developed from cropped images taken of my 3DVR light paintings, with a virtual camera, in a virtual world, which I then further work on digitally, manipulating color, scale, aspect ratio, etc., before printing them out as finished paintings, on large rolls of canvas. I describe them as digital from end to end. The entire process, exclusive of my physical abstract expressionist stroke making gestures, is digital. And of course, the color ‘brush’ strokes ‘painted’ with colored light, in the virtual world (3DVR) are all digital. The paintings on canvas, printed on large sale digital printers, are of course, not digital themselves. I exhibit them as paintings: stretched, framed and hanging on walls in the real world. 

In 2018 another interesting, new custom software option, allowed me to further develop my digital process for The Inside and Outside Pictures. Now, in addition to taking the snapshots (crops), further developing the images and outputting the pictures onto canvas, I can instead take the 3D interactive light ‘painting ‘ that I ’painted’ in the virtual world, out in its entirety onto my phone, where it can then be ‘placed’, looked at, walked around and through, in full 3D color, in almost any real world setting. I can then also take snapshots (crops) of the 3D color digital brush strokes, created in the virtual world, in a real-world setting with my phone’s camera. There’s a technical term for this, mixed reality, MR, a combination of the real and the virtual world. But of course, this isn’t exactly what I’m after either, it’s still just part of my process. I’m interested in turning these new snapshots into finished paintings on canvas. To do this I use much the same digital tools that I use for The Syracuse Pictures. When these new images are finished, I print The Inside and Outside Pictures on canvas, stretch, frame and hang them on walls to be experienced as paintings. 

Very often when I exhibit The Syracuse Pictures and The Inside and Outside Pictures, people viewing them on the art gallery walls are curious about how I make them. Many people want to see and experience them and my process in a Virtual World. 

The Inside and Outside Immersive Painting Experience is an interactive immersive 3DVR experience set in a gallery space. In this immersive VR experience, my 3DVR light paintings are surrounded by a simulation of the environment in which my final MR pictures might have been created. As part of the installation, the gallery in which this will take place, will also have my framed paintings on its walls so that, when not wearing VR goggles, these finished paintings are on view for everyone. 

Participants put on VR goggles and find themselves in a new world, surrounded by an art gallery exhibition and then the fields, sky and gardens of a farmhouse in the Catskill Mountains. One at a time, a larger than life 3DVR painting appears there and each person can walk through, inside and around it. The participants are seeing views of their surroundings through the 3DVR painting, much as I might see them, when I am cropping images for the finished paintings. The participants are in an environment like the one in which I take the Inside and Outside MR snapshots, that I transform into the paintings on the real gallery walls. 

Many people who see my paintings ask me how I make them. Of course, I describe my process to them in detail, but in the end, most people comment that they wish they could see the work in 3D in a virtual world. When people stand in front of some of my finished pictures, they tell me that they want to walk into them. This is my attempt to provide this experience and a way to show people how I create my work. 

Darcy Gerbarg  2019

Production Credits

  • Producer and Art Director

    Darcy Gerbarg

    Technical Director 

    Gene Miller, Principal Scientist, DVI Science Ltd.

    Oculus Quest development 

    Creative AVR, Inc.

    VR Production Facilities

    The Future Reality Lab, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University 

    Technical Advisors at The Future Reality Lab

    Professor Ken Perlin

    Pasan Dharmasena

    Ben Ahlbrand

    Bracey Smith